lgbt

[088] See Change

honeymaid.boxTurns out, the revolution will be televised. If you watch the news, though, you might miss it.

Hint:  Keep an eye on the commercials.

Last month, Nabisco’s Honey Maid graham crackers aired a 30-second television commercial. “This Is Wholesome” features a diverse mix of families enjoying themselves and their Honey Maid graham crackers. There are the gay dads… the interracial parents… and the drum-playing-rocker-dad-with-tattoos (huh?)… and the Latino/single dad. Watch:

Clearly, straight-white-nuclear families are no longer consuming graham crackers in sufficient quantities, so Nabisco is going after… everyone else. Which is what you’re supposed to do if your shareholders expect you to sell more of what you make, not less. Honey Maid grahams is a $100M business – and those crafty Keebler elves are fierce competitors in the share-of-crunch battle.

So, on one level, this is just Advertising & Marketing 101. But there’s something else going on here. It’s in the messaging Nabisco chose to sell its graham crackers to an American tv audience:

No matter how things change,
what makes us wholesome 
never will.

Honey Maid.
Everyday wholesome snacks,
for every wholesome family.

Nabisco wants us all to buy more of its graham crackers. To achieve that goal, it is spending millions of dollars to make a little 30-second film about Honey Maid’s brand personality: Wholesome and Fun! And we know that because we can see these different families having good, wholesome fun and eating good, wholesome Honey Maid graham crackers. The something else comes at the end of the spot, where Nabisco wants us all to know that it makes snacks for every wholesome family.

Cue the hellfire and damnation in 5… 4… 3… 2…

1milmoms 03.20.14

The group which styles itself ONE MILLION MOMS (actual number = several thousand) – bless their hearts – unleashes a scalding memo taking Nabisco to task for its “This is Wholesome” commercial! “Nabisco should be ashamed of themselves” scream all the moms! Sadly, @1milmoms haven’t caught fire on the social media. That tweet was retweeted six times… and only four of those even bothered to ‘favorite’ it. Ouch.

Of course, there aren’t one million moms with their knickers in a knot over Nabisco’s ‘shameful’ marketing. There also are not one million dads. These are “projects” of an all-too real organization called the ‘American Family Association’. AFA is oh so many things. Mostly, it is a designated “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the well-respected tracker and opponent of hatemongers in America. (Have a look at their website, and make a donation if you can. They do important work.)

AFA and its thousands of ‘moms’ and hundreds of ‘dads’ are SUPER busy folks though! They’re not just going after your Teddy Grahams. Oh no! They are boycotting Home Depot and Chevrolet and Red Robin burgers and the Air Force Academy and the Southern Baptists, Dodge RAM, Pepsi, NBC, ABC, Disney, the Boy Scouts – all for being insufficiently anti-gay. Oh, and they absolutely do NOT want you to see the new movie “Noah”, a filmed fiction which apparently does not conform to their own version of the written fiction. Whew! It is NOT easy to be a low-information bigot these days!

So, an American corporation or organization or politician does something in the name of diversity or progress, and the Lord’s Idiots scream and moan… and usually, that’s the end of it. But not this time. This time, something really interesting has happened.

Nabisco answered its antediluvian critics. Not in a press release or a tweet – although that would have been remarkable on its own. No, they produced a 2-minute response that says (in the nicest possible way): SHUT THE FUCK UP! It’s called “Love”:

.

What’s the big deal? It’s this: marketers tend not to get too far out ahead of their customers, if at all. When Nabisco produced and aired the original ad, they already knew it was well within the ‘norms’ of American civilization in 2014. When the lunatic fringe did their hateful song and dance, Nabisco could very easily have ignored them. After all, the Thousand Moms and Hundred Dads and the parent hate group do not get much play beyond their own echo chamber. Who cares? Well, Nabisco cares, enough to stand up and say, your hatefulness was drowned out by vastly greater messages of support. And they went to the time and the trouble to translate that support into a visual representation of the radical concept of “love”. Bravo Nabisco!

The world has changed. The bigots have lost. The anti-gay bigots. The anti-black bigots. The anti-latino bigots. Even the anti-tattoo bigots. Oh, they’re still around, in diseased little pockets, and they make some noise now and then. But no one is listening. America has moved on. Disney doesn’t care. Chevy doesn’t care. And Teddy Grahams doesn’t care. I think I’ll go buy a box of Honey Maid graham crackers and celebrate the continuing demise of the haters.

The End Is Nigh – for the bigots!
Day 088 #100happydays

 

 

 

[070] NO’H8

There are two major St Patrick’s Day parades in this country, New York and Boston. These parades are organized by private fundraising organizations which continue to exclude participation by openly LGBT people and groups. In Boston it’s the Allied War Veteran’s (sic) Council; in NYC, the Ancient Order of Hibernians. These groups try to hide their bigotry behind the skirts of “religion” and “veterans”.

Because there are no Irish gays, no gay Catholics, no gay veterans, right?

stoutcomesoutIn 2014, though, this anti-gay bias has only been amplified by the lens of… 21st century morality and equality. Politicians in New York and Massachusetts have shunned the bigots’ parades – including the mayors of New York City and Boston. But now, the Allied This and Ancient That have suffered an even more grievous injury: ALL OF THEIR BEER SPONSORS HAVE PULLED OUT! That’s right. Heineken. Sam Adams. And – sure and begorra! – now GUINNESS has taken its creamy stoutness and gone home.

It’s sad, for so many reasons. Having pride in your Irish heritage is a wonderful thing. The Irish have contributed so much to American culture. Millions of Irish came to this country in waves of immigration from the early 1800s through the 1920s. And the Irish who came to this country seeking a better life met with the same hatreds that are directed at immigrants from Mexico today. It was ugly. And it persisted up until WWII. I saw it in my own family. My German grandparents had very little love for my Irish grandparents. So, I always wonder how people who have been so horribly mistreated and disrespected can have such short memories about how that felt. If you’re Irish and you think your proud heritage gives you the moral right to discriminate against others… you have forgotten your own history. The East Cost parade-makers should pay a visit to the Windy City.

bigotryhasnoplaceChicago has a great Irish-American celebration, including a green river and the gays. Imagine! Or, maybe they would like to see how they do it in Dublin. You know, the folks who invented being Irish? Yup. Shamrocks. Leprechauns. And gays. Oh my!

I salute the politicians and the sponsors who have decided not to participate in what has become a symbol of anti-gay bigotry in Boston and New York. To be sure, there’s little or no risk to pols or the ex-sponsors, given the strong majority support for equal treatment of LGBT Americans. But if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. And Ford Motor Company is the only remaining major sponsor left. I wonder what Ford is waiting for? For as long as they sponsor these bigots, there won’t be any Ford in my future.

So, here’s wishing a Happy St Patrick’s Day to my Irish friends and family. I raise a Guinness to your health! And a Heineken! And a Sam Adams!

Day 070 #100happydays

[061] Ubiquitous Bougainvillea + Donuts

Snapped these shots along the way today…

As I started down the hill this afternoon, I turned around and caught this view of the facade of our condo building. No filters on this photograph. The light and the colors were fantastic! Had me humming The Star-Spangled Banner (true story)…

1230Horn

This mural was painted on the side of the Viper Room on the Sunset Strip about six months ago. I’ve always thought it was Humphrey Bogart. But I did a Google image search just now and discovered that it is a tribute to Johnny Cash – created by the amazing David Flores Art

JohnnyCash.DavidFlores

When I first came to Los Angeles more than 20 years ago, the thing that really popped out of the landscape was the ubiquitous bougainvillea – say that three times fast! They really are everywhere, covering walls, crawling across flat roofs, flowing down hillsides. This fuscia (again, sans filter) seems to be the dominant color, but you’ll see every shade along the spectrum from reds to pinks to oranges to yellows to purples. And here’s a fun fact: the color is not the flower. It’s specialized leaves surrounding the small, white flowers. Didn’t see that coming, did you?

weho.bougainvillea

If you’ve ever wondered Just how gay is West Hollywood, California? – consider this: we have rainbow crosswalks! Why? Because we can…

weho.crosswalk

Ah, the benefits of moving through the world at 1 mph: you get to go into new places instead of just driving by them. One of the quirky things about LA is that it is splattered with old-fashioned donut shops. They are everywhere. Burger joints, too. But I’ve never really figured out why so many (many, many) donut shops? And who keeps them in business in this pilates-doing-grass-juice-swilling-hot-yoga-sweating-spanx-wearing-liposucked town??? A new one just opened on Santa Monica Blvd in Weho, in the middle of a several-blocks-long stretch of bars. And believe me: the gay bar crowd isn’t tossing back donuts with their happy hour vodkas – not even shrouded in disguise à la Anastasia Beaverhausen at Taco Time. But this is not your daddy’s donut shoppe. No, this is Glazed: Donuts For GrownUps. I zoomed in, snapped this pic, and got out of there before I drowned in my own saliva. (I saw a donut… with bacon on it.) I have friends coming to town soon, and we are gonna get Glazed!

weho.glazed

Finally – and I don’t know why – here’s a selfie I took in the elevator upon my return. I wasn’t trying to look so fierce. Just wanted to get the damn thing snapped before the doors opened and I got busted taking a selfie in the elevator – or I was daydreaming about donuts…

selfie.elevator

Bougainvillea, rainbow crosswalks and new donuts make me happy.

Day 061  #100happydays

[053] Hockney’s California

A wet, gray winter’s day in LA is a great time for a mini-survey of David Hockney’s California paintings. The openly queer British artist found his way to Los Angeles in 1964 – part of the cultural Invasion more famously associated with the Beatles – and lived here on and off for thirty years. His houses in Nichols Canyon and Malibu became the settings for some of his best-known works (including above, “Mulholland Drive – The Road to the Studio, 1980”). Hockney’s vibrant colors celebrate the landscapes and lifestyles of Southern California. Enjoy!

Picture of a Hollywood Swimming Pool, 1964

Picture of a Hollywood Swimming Pool, 1964

Peter Getting Out Of Nick's Pool, 1966

Peter Getting Out Of Nick’s Pool, 1966

Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1971

Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1971

Nichols Canyon, 1980

Nichols Canyon, 1980

Seascape, 1989

Seascape, 1989

Small Santa Monica - The Bay From The Mountains, 1990

Small Santa Monica – The Bay From The Mountains, 1990

David Hockney makes me happy. (If my use of these images makes Mr Hockney or his representatives unhappy, I will take them down, unhappily.) Day 053 #100happydays

Update: Here’s a wonderful interview with David Hockney, by Martin Gayford in The Spectator.

And: Here’s the link to Artsy’s Hockney page.

[051] Homomentum

Today was another terrible, horrible, no good day for “religious” bigots in America. I put that word in quotes, because they only feign religiosity. All they really are is grotesquely ignorant, small-minded, bitter, sniveling imbeciles. The breaking news, as I write this, is that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has vetoed SB 1062 – the bill passed by both houses of the Arizona legislature which would have permitted anti-gay (and other forms of) discrimination by people and businesses… as long as the discrimination was said to come from “deeply held religious beliefs.” Oh, bite me!

from the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University

Jim Crow Museum, Ferris State Univ

Governor Brewer’s veto should not be construed as support for the notion of equal civil rights for all Arizonans. There are hundreds of millions of other reasons for her veto – in the form of a guaranteed financial hit to Arizona’s economy and state tax revenues. Most of the major companies headquartered or doing business in Arizona came out publicly against this bigoted law. The real coup de grace was a thinly veiled warning from the National Football League that Phoenix would lose next year’s Super Bowl if this abominable license to discriminate were to become law. Remember that Arizona has unique experience losing a Super Bowl to state-sanctioned bigotry. In 1993, Super Bowl XXVII was moved from Phoenix to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena because Arizona refused to recognize the federal holiday honoring Dr Martin Luther King Jr. The ghosts of 1993’s debacle apparently still haunt the AZ governor’s chambers in 2014.

This veto is not a surprise. Nor is the failure of other such bills in the states which have recently attempted to enact anti-gay discrimination under the guise of so-called “religious freedom”. Kansas, South Dakota, restrooms.whiteonlyTennessee, Oregon, Idaho, Maine and Georgia have all gone down this rutted road recently. Arizona was just the first state to get a bill on its governor’s desk. It may not be the last. So, good news that Arizona today rejected a law that would have permitted businesses to turn away customers they don’t like. Fifty years later, and the bigots are still trying to serve up steaming piles of Jim Crow – this time aimed at LGBT Americans. And of course, it’s the same thing in all the states attempting to restrict voting access for people of color, students and the elderly. What a proud chapter in America’s ongoing fight for social justice! The Republicans are behind these noxious attempts at legislative discrimination, and they should hang their heads in shame. We already know how history will view them and their supporters: with the same revulsion that civilized people reserve for the Jim Crow signage displayed on this page. And that is exactly how offensive these fraudulent excuses for hatred are.

Texas Court Ruling

But wait! For most of the day, Arizona wasn’t even the biggest story on the bigot-busting beat. No! That spotlight belonged to Texas – where a federal judge ruled its ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia issued the ruling which struck down Texas’ 2003 law banning same-sex marriage as well as its 2005 state constitutional ban. In his opinion, Judge Garcia wrote:

Today’s court decision is not made in defiance of the great people of Texas or the Texas Legislature, but in compliance with the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedent. Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our U.S. Constitution.

Frankly, it’s getting difficult to keep up with all the action in the courts. In the last two months alone, there have been at least six federal court rulings declaring anti-gay marriage bans to be unconstitutional, in the reddest of states: Texas, Kentucky, Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah and Ohio. And with more than a dozen active cases being pursued in other states, this list will inevitably grow. Some of these cases will be not gay lunchappealed to the Circuit Courts, others will not – and that is a Red State / Blue State divide. Given the Supreme Court’s ruling last June invalidating DOMA (the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act”), it is virtually a foregone conclusion that federal judges will find state laws restricting marriage to heterosexuals to be unconstitutional. And as it did with all the district court rulings striking down DOMA, the Supreme Court will likely consolidate whatever cases rise through the Courts of Appeal in the various circuits – and decide the question of marriage equality in this country, once and for all.

It has been ten years since Massachusetts became the first state in the country to endorse marriage equality. Since then, the following states have joined that growing list: California, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, District of Columbia, New York, Washington State, Maryland, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Delaware, New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico. We are rapidly approaching half of the population of the country living in marriage equality states, with the federal government now automatically recognizing all legal marriages. The remaining state bans will continue to be challenged until they all fall. Unless the Supreme Court expedites that result with a ruling echoing Loving v. Virginia which struck down the interracial marriage bans in this country. If you’re keeping score at home, the Washington Post has a terrific interactive map of marriage equality status in the states. Check back often, as they say.

Day 051 #100happydays

[049] Of Fountains And Fuckwads

pdc.fountain.2Gentle Reader… You know that I have recently begun walking to and from the pool for my daily swim. And you’ve seen the results of my snapaholic tendencies with my phone/camera sur la route. It was just getting dark as I left the pool this evening, when a flash of red light caught my eye and drew me across the street to the Pacific Design Center. There’s a great fountain in the plaza there. The pool is dark and the jets glow with a deep red illumination. Sometimes the fountain dances, but tonight it was just a steady upwelling of molten lava-water.

There is a stepped, grassy amphitheater between the street and the plaza, and halfway down I got myself in a prone position to steady the camera on the concrete edge. There was a professional photographer in another corner of the plaza shooting pix of a model in some serious couture. As I risked laying down in god-knows-what to get the shot, I felt a kinship with my fellow fotog. Click, click, dozens of clicks. Instead of changing positions (I was lazy), I just fiddled with the various filters on the camera app, I’ll spare you most of the results, but here are a few fun ones.

pdc.fountain.aqua

The “aqua” filter is a blue-tinted sepia setting. I like the way it takes down the glare of the illumination and shows more of the structure of the individual water jets.

pdc.fountain.dots

And then there is the “dots” filter. I am drawn to this pixelation effect like ants to a picnic. In fact, I think the first post I did in this series of #100happydays was a dots treatment of the full moon over another part of the PDC. If I’m repeating myself a bit, I hope it’s not boring!

pdc.fountain.negative

How about a color negative? That’ll blow some sunshine up yer skirt, eh?! Turns dark/light contrast inside-out. Gives the palms – which are all but invisible in the positive mode – a ghostly presence. And funnily enough, the water turns… blue.

As I hauled my waterlogged (but happy) carcass back up the mountain – hey! it’s a +300-foot change in elevation, which is almost just exactly sort of the same as climbing a 30-story building thankyouverymuch – I felt satisfied in sharing my fountain fotos with you as today’s entry in the #100happydays death march series.

But having checked the interweb machine when I got home, I now can close this post with a much bigger slice of happy pie. I mean, fountains are nice and all… but the defeat of hate-filled bigoted ignoramuses trumps all the other news of the day. Here’s the headline from tonight’s breaking news:

breaking-AB1266 repeal fails

(San Francisco, CA, February 24, 2014)—Today, the effort to repeal the School Success and Opportunity Act—California’s new law ensuring that all children have opportunities to do well in school—failed to qualify for the ballot.

Long story short: Last year the California Assembly passed and Governor Brown signed into law the School Success and Opportunity Act which was mostly a re-focusing of existing laws designed to protect transgender students and provide public school administrators and teachers with the tools needed to provide all kids with safety and fairness in schools. It’s the kind of law that makes me proud to call California home.

And like clockwork, they came crawling out of the woodwork like a biblical plague of insects: the professional hate mongers. Same folks who brought us Prop 8. They prey on the church folk, getting them all whipped into a frenzy noh8with lies, innuendo, distortions and fear. Everything but the truth. And most of them do it just to fill their coffers and line their own pockets. It’s not new. It’s just surprising that people fall for it, every blessed time.

They once again tried to hijack California’s referendum process with a ballot measure to repeal this law. They vilified the very kids the law is designed to protect – and for that alone, I hope they all end up in their celestial woodchipper. They needed 500,000 signatures to put the repeal measure on the ballot this November. They turned in more than 600,000 signatures and started high-fiving each other from here to eternity.

Funny thing about all those signatures though… turns out 130,000 of them are invalid. Tsk tsk. Isn’t there something in their magik books about not lying or cheating or stealing? Hmmmmm. Or maybe they just can’t read? Or maybe they have been exposed, AGAIN, as the frauds they are. If they can’t win, they cheat. And when they get caught cheating they lie. And then they scurry back into the dark crevices until they find someone else to attack.

If you’d like to learn more about this law and the issues it addresses, you can start here:

http://www.supportallstudents.org/

So, Kind Intelligent Fair-minded Reader, I give you a beautiful fountain and a bunch of defeated fuckwads for today’s ray of sunshine. Day 049 #100happydays

[046] Thank you, Edie Windsor

And thank you, Mr President.

edie_windsor.ovaloffice

On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional. The case was United States v. Windsor, and it was filed by a woman named Edie Windsor who had to pay nearly $400,000 in federal estate taxes after her wife, Thea Spyer, passed away in 2007. While the State of New York recognized their marriage, the federal government did not – because of DOMA. 

Following the Court’s historic ruling in Windsor, the Administration has moved to implement the decision so that loving, committed, legally married same-sex couples can enjoy the same federal rights, benefits and obligations as other married couples. Just this Monday, the Justice Department issued a new policy memorandum to “formally instruct all Justice Department employees to give lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent possible under the law.”

edie.thea.3xWhen the Court handed down its decision last June, President Obama called Edie from Air Force One to congratulate her on her victory. And earlier this week, the President invited Edie to the France State Dinner and the Oval Office to thank her in person. – from The White House blog

Edie was Time’s “runner up” for Person of the Year last year. But she never took a back seat to anyone. Edie + Thea lived an epic love story, shown in this beautiful photo essay by Time photo editor Paul Moakley.

Endless Love: Inside the Photo Albums of Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer

Day 046 #100happydays

[045] Continuum

= Throwback Thursday =

In 1922, science fiction writer Ray Cummings put it this way: “Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.” Makes sense. You drop an egg. A half-second ticks by. The egg smashes on the kitchen floor. Time separates the egg from its demise. And us from ours. But then… some wisecrackers came along and challenged our notion of time as nonsense. They plunked down this idea at the intersection of physics and philosophy: the past, the present and the future are all happening, together, all at once. The fabric of spacetime folds back onto itself and the point of contact – the now – is also the past and the future. It gets even more bizarre, but let’s leave it at everything-happens-at-once. And here’s a joke, because it never was/is/will be more relevant to any post I ever did/do/will do:

The past, the present and the future walked into a bar.

It was tense.

I cannot explain how the past, present and future can coexist. But… when I look at this photograph, I sort of get it. It’s not just that I remember exactly where this was taken or why we were there… it’s not that I remember the excitement of the moment… it’s not that I remember being there with Eileen… it’s not even that I remember thinking I can’t believe I’m wearing a t-shirt that says Homos For Hillary (it was a gift from my sister). It’s that this doesn’t feel like a memory at all. That 31-year-old me is peering out from this photo and connecting with himself, which is to say, with myself – the 51-year-old me. Him. Well, you know. The photo is just an artifact, but that moment is somehow contemporaneous with this moment.

My friend Eileen sent me that snapshot in a “happy Throwback Thursday” email today. It’s one of our favorite pictures of us together, and for so many reasons. First of all, we’re so young this is practically a sonogram. It was 1993. Eileen lived in Boston, I was in San Francisco. We met in Washington DC with entourages of old and new friends in tow. And we were there for two reasons.

This:
MOW93paradebanner

And these two:
mario.jim.dc1993

Our pals Mario and Jim tied the knot (for the first time) waaaaaaaay back in 1993. Before it was legal. Or fashionable. Or even a thing. They married again in Connecticut in 2009. And their federal government finally got around to recognizing their legal marriage less than a year ago, when the Supreme Court tossed DOMA on the trash heap of bigoted legal history. So… the photo Eileen shared with me today triggers a cascade of memories and emotions and connections. That weekend in Washington was one of those times in my life where the personal and the public got tossed in a blender and puréed.

Americans gather in stadiums for sports. We gather on the Fourth of July for parades and fireworks. We gather at beaches and parks over Labor Day weekend. But I think it’s fair to say that most Americans have never marched in the streets – for any reason. And even fewer have traveled to the nation’s capital to join hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens to say, We’re here. We matter. And this is what we want. It is powerful stuff, putting yourself out there, using your body, your voice, your self… to try to change the world. Standing up, being counted. It is part of our birthright as Americans, explicitly protected by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution in the Bill of Rights:

Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting
the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;
or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,
and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
.

Ukraine ProtestThese are not abstract notions. Look at the horror unfolding this week in the streets of Kiev. Ukrainians have turned out en masse to protest the games being played with their lives by Russia and the EU. And the government has viciously attacked its own people, firing on them, killing dozens or hundreds, escalating the violence. It is a war zone, and the Ukraine is on fire. The US certainly has its problems – but Americans can march on their capital to demand change, criticize our leaders and their decisions… without worrying about being murdered by the police or the military. This is precisely why it is so important to fight for your rights when they are being denied.

So, there we were in 1993, coming from every corner of the country to demand equal justice under the law. Equal rights, not special rights. There was another component of this March on Washington: AIDS. Only a decade into the epidemic at that point. The dead already numbered in the tens of thousands. The gay community and its AIDSQuiltImg5allies had rallied magnificently to take care of our own. But the FDA was plodding along in the face of an ongoing disaster, taking entirely too long to approve new drugs and treatment regimens. ACT-UP was taking the fight to the government, and this March on Washington delivered a powerful dose of urgency to the Clinton Administration – then only three months old. Part of our presence in Washington that weekend was a massive display of the Quilt – the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt – on the Mall. I have never experienced more raw emotional power than the times I’ve stood in the midst of the Quilt. It is overwhelming, in every way: the crushing weight of the loss, the fierce love in every stitch. Tens of thousands of 3′ x 6′ panels; the dimensions of a grave. Handmade with heartbreaking intimacy, awash in tears. Each panel commemorates a person, a man, a woman, a child, a life… lost to AIDS, lost to a decade of murderous disregard and unforgivable inaction by our own government. The Quilt acted as a lens, gathering all of our grief and anger and loss and sorrow and focusing it like a laser beam of resolve: to be relentless in our demands to take care of the sick and to stop this disease from wiping out an entire generation, or more. To be recognized as human beings, to say We’re here. We matter. This is what we need.

Still, it would take another four years of constant pressure before the new class of anti-retroviral drugs was made available to combat HIV infection and the progression of AIDS. That was a huge victory, both medical and moral. But those were also the years when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) were passed by Congress – and signed, shamefully, in the middle of the night by Bill Clinton. Those were dark days for me, for mine, for this country. Little did we know it would only get worse with the cataclysm of the coming Bush years.

But the arc of history does bend toward justice… slowly… slowly. It’s messy. It’s a knife fight. It’s two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug. But you keep going. Because it’s your life you’re fighting for, and for the lives of those around you. And also for the country you believe in, even when it seems to have abandoned you. As Gandhi is said to have said:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you – and then you win.

The general perception these days is that the fight for equal rights for gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender Americans is just cruising along at presto-chango speed! But I’ve lived now through enough of that arc of history to know that the successes of the last few years could never have happened without the blood, sweat and tears of all the generations past, to the beginnings of the last century. We stand on the shoulders of giants: Larry Kramer, Cleve Jones, Harvey Milk, Margarethe Cammermeyer, Barney Frank, Annise Parker, Harry burstdownthoseclosetdoors.milkHay, Frank Kameny, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, Troy Perry, Bayard Rustin, Tammy Baldwin, Dan Savage, Urvashi Vaid, Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer, Ellen DeGeneres, Billie Jean King, Armistead Maupin, Eugene Robinson… hundreds of trailblazers… thousands of unsung heroes… millions of people living their lives in quiet dignity, waiting for the day when that dignity could speak with a louder voice. Many never saw that day. And that is why we never gave up, will never give up. If you’re a kid who feels different today, a wide path has been cleared for you – but you still might need to hear that “It Gets Better”. Because it does. Because we all came together, so many times, in so many places, across so many years, to make it better. We gay folk, the LGBT you hear so much about, have been ignored. We’ve been laughed at. We’ve been fought at every turn. And now, we’re winning.

It’s about time. And I wonder if this continuum of past, present and future means that an older me is on the future end of this party line. Are we like those hideous Russian nesting dolls? Wherever we are in our lives now, we contain all of our younger selves; we are, likewise, contained within all of our older selves. We just haven’t met them yet. It’s like temporal schizophrenia. Only better. Because there’s something comforting in the notion of the past and the future having a party.

Day 045 #100happydays

[041] The Art of the Interview

Last month, I wrote about a terrific evening at the LA Central Library with Armistead Maupin, author of the Tales of the City novels. This morning, I started clicking around the internets and lucked upon an interview with A.M. whilst in Days of AM.coverLondon on the book tour for the last of the Tales series: The Days of Anna Madrigal.

I have to say, this is the most satisfying interview with A.M. that I’ve ever read, heard or seen. Christopher Bryant – editor of Polari Magazine – honored the author, and the audience, with a warm appreciation of and familiarity with Maupin’s creation: the characters, settings, stories and the 40-year sweep of history that is the backdrop to these Tales. All the while avoiding the temptation to make the conversation self-referential, in any way. If you’re ever tempted to interview an author, a quick review of Mr Bryant’s insightful methods and style will serve you well.

And I’m so glad to have discovered Polari Magazine, whose mission is “Exploring art & culture from a uniquely queer Polar-magazine-300x143perspective”. (I give it 500 bonus points, right off the bat, just for using the word queer instead of the clinical and ubiquitous lgbt. I know, I know. It’s inclusive and that’s important, but… God save the queens from being boiled in that alphabet soup!)

So, here’s the link to Christopher Bryant’s brilliant Polari interview with Armistead Maupin. Enjoy! 

And while you’re Chris.PansyDivision.Polarithere, look around. You never know what you’ll find. Ferinstance… Just as I was about to click on to the next bright, shiny object… something caught my eye over in the Polari sidebar. Oh look! – there’s Chris Freeman from Pansy Division. Chris is now a-rockin’ and a-rollin’ in LA with my friend Gizmo (née Brian Welch) in bands paying tribute to the GO-GOs (the Gay-Gays) and AC/DC (GayC/DC). When I saw Polari spotlighting Pansy Division as part of LGBT History Month, I almost broke a nail forwarding the link on to Gizmo for Chris. We queers can be mean. 🙂  To quote Martha Bach, the scary old matriarch in the film Arthur: Don’t fuck with us. We’re ruthless people! (And yes, I’m talking to you, GOP.)

[038] Loving v. Virginia – Again

For a state whose marketing slogan has long been “Virginia Is For Lovers”, it sure does like to make laws preventing many of those lovers from marrying each other. Fortunately, federal courts exist to remind Virginia of the Constitution of the United States. (Which is ironic since one of Virginia’s greatest sons, James Madison, is remembered as “the Father of the Constitution” and had a hand in writing much of it. You’d think they’d pay a little more attention to it, huh?)

In 1958, Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving traveled from Virginia to Washington DC to get married, and then returned home to Virginia. Police raided their home in the middle of the night and arrested them for the crime of miscegenation (interracial marriage). They were each given a sentence of one year in prison – suspended on the condition that they leave Virginia immediately.

So the Lovings moved to DC, where they were legally married, to live their lives. Nine years later, on 12 June 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision in Loving v. Virginia. It struck down all of the country’s remaining miscegenation laws (throughout the South, of course) and forever removed race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.

Mildred + Richard Loving

Mildred + Richard Loving


Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

Nearly 50 years later, a new legal challenge to another Virginia marriage law is making its way through the federal courts. Today’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen struck down as unconstitutional Virginia’s prohibitions against same-sex marriage, or the recognition of legal same-sex marriages performed in other states. As a preface to the 41-page ruling, Judge Allen incorporated these comments made by Mildred Loving in 2007 on the 40th anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia ruling:

Mildred Loving statement

marriage-equality“Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others.” Words to live by. Today’s ruling has been stayed pending the inevitable appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and will almost certainly then be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. There are similar legal cases moving through the federal judiciary all across the country. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia already provide for marriage equality, and the federal government has moved swiftly to recognize these legal marriages since the Supreme Court struck down the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” last year. So, America is in a remarkably similar position with regard to “gay marriage” as it was in 1967 with “interracial marriage”. And the day is coming when the Supreme Court will decide the case which puts an end, once and for all, to anti-gay bias in marriage laws in the United States. That won’t put an end to ignorant or hateful people… but it will make their ignorance and hatred legally irrelevant to the rest of us.

And that makes me so very gay… you know, happy.
Day 038 #100happydays

Deep in the Heart of Texas!

I was going to update my earlier post (Sam vs Sam) to include this… but it really does deserve its very own space pedestal.

There is a sportscaster on WFAA-TV in Dallas. That’s in Texas, y’all. Goes by the name of Dale Hansen. And boy oh boy oh BOY! does Mr Dale Hansen have something to say about the NFL and football and Mike Sam.

To appreciate what you’re about to see, you don’t have to know anything about Dallas or Texas or WFAA or sports or Dale Hansen or Mike Sam or the NFL. You just have to have a pulse.

Here’s the link to the best two-minutes of video I’ve seen since Julia Sugarbaker defended her sister Suzanne to that bitch Marjorie Leigh Winnick! And that bit of television history is too delicious to mention in passing, so here it is:

I know, right?! The best of 80s tv! You haven’t lived until you’ve watched that clip for the hundredth time on a Sunday afternoon in the Midnight Sun bar in the Castro in San Francisco – but that’s another post.

Now you owe it to yourself to watch Dale Hansen, Unplugged. I hope you’ll share it. And to those around the world who may see this, I want you to know: Dale Hansen is an example of all the decent folks in America. The bigots and the assholes hog the spotlight – but they are in the minority. And shrinking.

DALE HANSEN :: UNPLUGGED (WFAA-TV, DALLAS)

Touchdown!

[037] Sam vs Sam

May you live in interesting times.

This is not the ancient Chinese curse that most of us heard it described as, including RFK who used it in a speech he gave in Cape Town in 1966:

“There is a Chinese curse which says ‘May he live in interesting times.’ Like it or not, we live in interesting times.”

I’m sure any public opinion poll conducted at any moment of human history would reveal that we always think of the times we live in as “interesting”. How could we not?

Of course, as curses go, condemning an enemy to live in interesting times doesn’t sound so terrible. The i-word must be a euphemism for challenging or even perilous. We do live in such times. asteroidInteresting? Always. Challenging? Frequently. Perilous? Probably moreso than we know. (An extinction-size asteroid could be whizzing past the moon as I tap out this post. That would suck… though it would (briefly) elevate the name of this blog – The End – from mere snark to exquisite prophecy.)

What do you find interesting about these times? My answer is probably different from yours, or Chris Christie’s or that of anyone named Kardashian. Probably.

mizzou.sam

Photo STLToday.com

There’s a story playing out in the national news this week that strikes me as one of the most interesting signs of our times. Three days ago, one of the best college football players in the country, on his way to the NFL draft, revealed that he is gay. He had come out to his team, the Missouri Tigers, before the start of this last season, with total support from his coaches and teammates. And they had a great, winning season.

“I am an openly proud gay man,” said Michael Sam, two weeks before the NFL scouts meeting. Why? For years, NFL scouts have been asking potential recruits questions like “Do you have a girlfriend?” or “Are you married?” or “Do you like girls?” Mike Sam just continued his habit of being honest and comfortable in his own skin. And in the process, he sets himself up to become the first openly gay player in the National Football League.

You would think the world of sports got hit by that rogue asteroid. But the reaction – while tumultuous – has been overwhelmingly positive. Starting with the NFL, which put out this statement:

“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”

The chorus of support continued, including the Tweeter-in-Chief.

Obama to Sam tweet

Of course, not everyone was full of cheer at Mike Sam’s coming out party. Sports Illustrated took a particularly cowardly route, giving “NFL executives” an anonymous platform for their negative comments. None worth repeating here.

Here’s one that is worth repeating. Jonathan Vilma, a linebacker with the New Orleans Saints shared his fears with NFL screaming.smallNetwork: “Imagine if he’s the guy next to me, and you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me, how am I supposed to respond?”

Seriously? Yeah. But this kind of reaction is instructive, because it so painfully reveals that people fear what they don’t understand. Ignorance is the root of all bigotry, all racism, all sexism, all xenophobia and all anti-gay hatred. I don’t mean ignorance as an intellectual deficit, but as a lack of experience. As every gay person who has ever come out knows, attitudes change when people come to understand that they know someone who is gay. “Gay is OK!” is the message, but the messenger carries the truth of it.

Here’s the most interesting part of these interesting times this week. While Missouri football-playing Mike Sam’s coming out was trending on Twitter, a wrestler at Ohio’s Kent State also got busy tweeting his opinion:

sam wheeler slur

“I can’t even watch sportcenter today cause all there talking about is Marcus Smart or that fag from mizzou….”

The NFL welcomes Mike Sam with open arms. The President of the United States congratulates Mike Sam for “real sportsmanship”. And Sam Wheeler of the KSU Golden Flashes (I won’t even go there) wrestling squad is complaining about “that fag from mizzou”.

Kent State University wasted no time with this statement:

“We are aware of the insensitive tweets by one of our student athletes. On behalf of Kent State University, we consider these comments to be ignorant and not indicative of the beliefs held by our university community as a whole. This is an educational opportunity for all of our student-athletes.”

And then they put Mr Wheeler on indefinite suspension. Where this “student athlete” belongs. Given the grammar exhibited in his offensive tweet, young Sam W. should be hitting the books while he’s unable to hit the mats. And since the most outspoken homophobes are often of the self-hating variety, maybe a little soul searching is in order, too.

With the 50th anniversary of MLK’s I Have A Dream speech last summer, another quote that’s had a lot of play lately is the one about “the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice”. But it bends slowly. And as President Obama has remarked, “it doesn’t bend by itself”.

marriage-equalityIt has been ten years since Massachusetts recognized marriage equality. Marriage isn’t everything, but the recognition of these rights are tangential to everything. We have seen marriage equality progress, in fits and starts, over the past decade. Especially in the passion play of Prop 8 in California leading up to the Supreme Court ruling last summer neutering that and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. Marriage equality is the law in nearly 20 states, with rulings pending in many more; and all marriages are equal in the eyes of the federal government. The bigoted Don’t Ask Don’t Tell military policy now seems like ancient history. The Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) will pass as soon as we have ethical leadership in the House once more. And here we are, on the verge of an openly gay player in the NFL.

We do live in interesting times. And for those who don’t like it, here’s the curse I’ll put on you: May your times get ever more interesting.

*UPDATE: YOU’LL WANT TO SEE THIS!

That would make me happy.
Day 037 #100happydays